350 year Jewish cemetry of Workum

Merk 4
8711 CL Workum
tel. 0515 - 54 12 31

350 year Jewish cemetry of Workum
5424-5774 / 1664-2014
Gerrit Twijnstra
first published in JaGDaF
21 Ader 5774  /  March 21 21014
translated by Chaim Caran

The eldest Jewish cemetery of Fryslân is located near the lock just outside the city of Workum.
This year, 350 years ago, on August 29, 1664 the Mayor, Aldermen and Council of the city Worckum let out on lease to `the honorable David Salomons, Jew, chartered Holder of the Pawn Bank' in Workum, a parcel of land of 30 `square feet', at `the city-camp (Stadts Camp) , behind the Syll next to the Wijkgrachtswall' It will be permitted that David Salomons, his relatives and confederates in the faith will be buried here. Twenty Caroli [gold] Guiders have to be paid to the city for every funeral.[in the opinion of the translator, only a one time payment was intended]
David is allowed to level the plot and to plant a hedge around to protect the place.

Many Jewish citizens Workum never had. In Hindeloopen a small Jewish community exists until 1862 with its own synagogue. Six tombstones remain on the cemetery, on the photo above from left to right:
1. Kendel, daughter of Yehuda, spouse of David Workum, died Aw 8, 5474 (July 20, 1714),(died in Rotterdam,but buried in Workum)
2. David, son of Salomon, died Tammuz 20, 5450 (June 27, 1690);
3. Benjamin, son of Jehuda Sjarlevin (Sarlouis), died Ijar 19, 5436 (May 2, 1676) (eldest Jewish tombstone in Fryslân) (burial Ijar 28, May 11)
4. Isaac, son of Eliëzer, died ?? Adar ???? (Februay/March)
5. Eliëzer, beloved child, son of Joseph Isaac, died Ijar 13, 5457 (May 4/5,1697);
6. Rachel, unmarried daughter of Benjamin Wolf, died Tewet 25, 5467 (December 30, 1706)

Not everyone could effort a tombstone. We know of a total of 12 Jews that died in Workum (the last one in 1856), and of 38 Jews that died in Hindeloopen (1 burried in Leeuwarden).So most probably 50 Jews are buried in Workum

The area of the lock in 1700 with to the right the Jewish cemetery

The state of the cemetery deteriorated that much that on September 1,1764 the City of Workum inserts an ad in the Leeuwarden Courant :

Because the state of decay of the Jewish cemetery of Workum is such, that the Honorable Magistrate of the City mentioned before, advertises to anyone saying pretending to have the ownership , that he has to address her Honours before the first of November, else as a fine, the [rights to the] graves(ite) will be lapsed, and forwarded to the city, to compensate for the repairs.

The Jewish Community of Leeuwarden undertakes action, to pay for the repairs. The entrance gets a door with a lock, the key with the secretary of the City of Workum.
Again in 1785 repairs are necessary. In 1817 the cemetery becomes under jurisdiction of the Jewish Community of Hindeloopen and in 1832 under the Jewish Community of Bolsward.

In the Workum newpaper Friso of April 5, 1899 Mennonite vicar T.H. Siemelink writes about the Jewish cemetery:

Strange, I have seen there pigs running around. How does the struggle for life keeps conscience stricken about even dead people!
It was there like a wilderness..
I peeped through the hedge and fence ,tombstones were there, I became curious, I broke into, not with violence , peaceful through an opening, at the cost of my clothes.
It happened some years ago, barred by lapse of time I hope. Some of the tombstones , as I remember well, were buried nearly completely under earth and grass, only one was in a state that part of the text was readable. I think that in the Hebrew letters the name of David Salomons was hidden.
David Salomons didn't dig a ditch, didn't fix a fence, but planted a hedge. The same hedge that as a wilderness , until recently, surrounded the quiet site, 235 years old, and still one could see in the spring children snatching and tearing branches ,and abundantly carrying home well smelling hawthorn.
For more than 200 years this hedge has been the victim of robbery; your great, great-great and great-great-great-grandfather have been busy snatching the twigs to which now your children reach, their white blossoms have decorated and perfumed their mothers room.
Do you now understand why this seeming wilderness had meaning?
Had, I said because she is no more. How you ask ? Go and see, as I saw . In stead of that old , honorable hawthorn hedge -a brandnew fence of more than twentyfold barbed wire, the old shrubs have been cut to ground level, no more old honorable look.
Yes, something new !
In the middle of the former "death-bed" stands a brand new small tombstone , and on that small tombstone, a text with, for many, cabalistic signs. What should it be ?
S.d.h. m.l.(a). k.b.r.j.t.That's what is written more or less in Hebrew letters.
A serious text, words in agreement with the solemn surrounding! You would think.
"Sade malee kebaroot",as I added to the signs, as far as my knowledge of the Jewish language went.
"Field full of graves-."
Full! -and I never saw more than about 3 graves .
Full! - The history of Workum doesn't have to show many Jewish families except that of David Salomons. But may be the children of David only buried here their father with a few more of their faith, and than were scattered/dispersed, though they didn't forget the grave in Workum. Did the family became extinct ? I don't know.

In the Leeuwarder Courant newspaper writes schoolmaster Jelle Boonstra from Workum on December 9,1933:

I remember very well that all the trees and shrubs were exterminated. The hedge was replaced by a structure with ten-fold barbed wire. The old distinguished look got lost. Here and there some shrubs recovered, but the quiet site had lost all beauty with the change.
Some years ago the barbed wire has been replaced by the Leeuwarden Jewish Community, and whole of the cemetery made invisible by a man-height wooden fence on a low stone base. It became difficult for me to have a look at the cemetery.
I was astonished to see the wilderness this resting place had become. Everywhere it was full of dead reed and shrubs. The honorable David Salomons the Jew family and co-religionists proved to be completely forgotten.

In the summer of 1938 the wooden fence is replaced by the present day concrete wall, fabricated by the Workum concrete factory of S(joerd) S(ierk) Hobma.

to the right the Jewish cemetery with from far the concrete factory of S.S.Hobma (1965)

After the Second World War the ownership of the cemetery changes to the national Dutch Israelite Congregation. Maintenance lags behind again. Inside the concrete walls the nettle grows lushly, and space surrounding the walls is used for storage for companies in the area.

Workum grows. A new suburb arises near the cemetery, and a road to this suburb is built.

The citizens of Workum are conscious of their history. Since the 1970-ies the old shipyard opposite the cemetery has been restored. A small port is built for historic ships. In the sameframe of time the whole area is renovated. So also the old cemetery . The concrete wall gets repaired and the hawthorn hedge replanted the cemetery becomes a monument recognized by the state.

Vicar Siemelink didn't know in 1899 if they still existed, but on Friday August 29, 2014 the descendants of David Salomons met after 350 year again in Workum. It was a special day !

Leeuwarder Courant, September 1 1764
Friso April 5 1899, De Helling en het Jodenkerkhof, ds. Tjaard Hindrik Siemelink (1864-1928)
De Telegraaf, July 5 1938, Joodsche kerkhoven in verval.
Leeuwarder Courant December 9 1933, Het Jodenkerkhof te Workum, Jelle Boonstra (1865-1941)
Parenteel van David Salomon, Louis Cats, Tammuz 5773 (June 2013)